Wednesday, 26 October 2011

You thought they were dead?

In good olde Britain, many years ago, there was a bunch called the Puritans.

They started out with good intentions; they wanted to strip away all the ritual and flummery from Church services. Good on them, we cry!

But then they got into power. And, big surprise, they didn't stop there. They ended up being extremists. They banned singing, dancing and enjoyment. "You are here to praise God, not to enjoy yourself," some of them might have cried. Then we had the restoration; King Charles I, the Merry Monarch, came back and all was well with the world. The Puritans slunk away into the dark, and all was well.

Aye, and all manner of things would be well. No more puritans. The world would never hear of them again.

Did you think that? No more puritans?


They are back, and they run our lives - or try to.

Oh sure, they don't step up, bold as brass, and say "We are Puritans, and we will now control your lives!"

If they said that, OK, fair play, they set themselves up as a target to fight against. But no, not these new puritans.

They sneak in, via unnoticed bye-laws. They infiltrate well-meaning special interest groups. They crawl into local government, or perhaps masquerade as innocuous MPs, disguising their true intent until they have a sniff of power. They recruit naive but eloquent speakers on their behalf.

How to spot one?

Their message is always the same: "Thou shalt not..."

I write this as a man, straight, approaching sixty. I eat meat and fornicate with women. I am of middle height, fat (though I prefer the words stocky or robust), don't exercise much, drink alcohol and smoke.

They hate me.

Daily I am exhorted, stridently, to do things for the sake of: the planet, the environment, my neighbours, my society, my friends, information security, the future of mankind (sorry, personkind) and above all, for the sake of people living in places I can't even pronounce.

If I don't comply, I will be shunned, reviled against in general, and probably taxed. My carbon footprint will be held up to appall the doubters; I will be denounced, heaven forfend, as not green.

These new puritans go further. They will dumb-down any TV serial I might enjoy, because it might give offence to vegetarian, one-legged, vertically-challenged, differently-sane one-parent Esquimaux.

Now, to all vegetarian, one-legged, vertically-challenged, differently-sane one-parent Esquimaux out there who are outraged by my life-style choices, I say: get a life.

To the new puritans out there protesting on their behalf I say: leave your life.

To the rest of us I say: be warned. They haven't gone away. The bastards who would stop you living as you wish are still around, and they mean to stop you.

Give them the sign - you know, the one that means they're number one!

Yes, that finger!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Reality versus perception

This post has been triggered by the Amanda Knox / Meredith Kercher case.

Now, I don't know the details of the case, so I'm not going to comment on the initial verdict or its overturn in the subsequent appeal. But what has struck me is the opposing views of Amanda Knox.

To much of the American media, she is a heroine, unjustly accused, fighting for a thousand days to clear her name. To most of the rest of the world she is evil, manipulative and a sociopath.

Whatever the truth, she will profit from it, no matter how just or unjust that may be. But why the discrepancy?

Why do the American public view her as a clean cut, pretty, young American girl and therefore innocent, persecuted by depraved and corrupt Italian officialdom? Why do the Brits feel she's slithered out of her conviction because of incompetence on the part of - yes, you've guessed it - corrupt Italian officialdom?

Perceptions. That's why. Most of the world regard the Italian police and judiciary as hopelessly corrupt. Most Italians probably think the same. But that does not make it true. Most Americans regard clean-cut American girls abroad as incapable of being criminals. Doesn't make it true. Some people believe the Moon is made of green cheese, and if it isn't then it's really, really unfair. The Moon doesn't care. It isn't made of cheese and isn't going to change for anyone. It has no motivation to make the change. It is made of rock and dust and it's staying that way.

Reality is what it is, and no matter how you view it, it will remain unchanged.

What about the Observer Effect? I hear you cry. You know, where the act of observing (perceiving) something alters the fundamental nature of the thing being watched.

Deep philosophical point. The effect of bombarding sub-atomic particles with X-rays in order to discern their structure might well change their structure, position, spin, charge or any other properties. True. The act of looking at Amanda Knox as an innocent victim does not make her one.

If a branch falls in the forest and no-one is there to observe, has it fallen?

Duh, yes it has. Does it make a sound? Well, who knows. And, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

So the true role of a PR agent is to change our perception of reality and thus influence our actions with regard to that (apparently) altered reality. Not Public Relations but Permeable Reality.

Cool job!